If you are new to seasoning firewood, our simple guide lays out everything you need to know in a clear and easy-to-understand way. From answering questions like why seasoning your firewood is so important to describe seasoning firewood, we’ve got you covered step by step. Ready to learn how to season firewood properly? Let’s go.
What is Seasoning Firewood? And Why is it Important?
Why does properly seasoned firewood matter? Properly seasoned firewood, all around, creates a better burn. The water trapped in wood that hasn’t been adequately seasoned makes the wood difficult to ignite. Once wet wood is lit, the water trapped inside causes the fire to burn cooler and put off less heat.
Covered or Uncovered?
Covered vs. uncovered is widely debated. However, most firewood experts will agree that some sort of cover is necessary (even if it is only the very top layer of your firewood stack).
No cover allows too much moisture to build up in your firewood, leading to rotting in the worst-case scenarios and seasoning that takes an extra long time in the best-case scenarios. That’s why covering the top of your firewood is highly recommended.
That said, too much cover is also a bad thing. Properly seasoned firewood is created by prolonged exposure to wind, rain, and sun. Wood that is tightly covered lacks these three elements almost entirely.
Firewood that has a moisture content level of 20-percent or less is considered fully seasoned. There are several easy ways to tell when your firewood is done seasoning, which we will discuss further down the article.
How to Quickly Season Firewood
Just because you paid for your firewood doesn’t mean that it is already seasoned. A great deal of firewood sold each year to homeowners with wood heat is greenwood. If you know much about greenwood, it doesn’t burn well, and when it does, it smokes a great deal and spitting and sparking at will.
If you’ve cut your wood from logs or bought a rack or two full of greenwood, you’ll want to know how to quickly season firewood. Here are a few easy steps to follow.
Cut & Split
If the wood is not already cut to proper lengths to fit your fireplace or stove, the first step is to cut and split the wood into suitable lengths. Next, stack the wood in a way that lets plenty of air circulate between the pieces of firewood. Use a pallet, scrap wood, or rack system to keep the bottom layer of wood from touching the ground directly.
Air It Out
Expose the firewood to as much sun and wind as possible. This means leaving the stack uncovered as much as possible. If it seems like rain or snow is possible, simply cover the top of the pile. The lower parts will dry relatively quickly as long as the top is protected. Tar paper, plastic sheeting, and tarps from various materials are among the best covers for seasoning firewood. On windy and/or sunny days, remove the cover and allow both wet and green wood to dry and season more quickly.
After six months to 1 year, most green wood will be adequately seasoned. If you purchase firewood that’s already begun seasoning, as little as a few weeks of additional seasoning may be needed.
When you suspect your firewood is fully seasoned, start taking enough firewood for a day or two inside, a day or two before you want to burn it in your fireplace or stove. Stack the wood on a rack or in a fashion that continues to let air circulate each piece if possible. This treatment will help rapidly finish the seasoning process.
Age Times for Popular Firewood Types
For the most part, fresh-cut firewood requires anywhere between 6 months, nine months, and a year to thoroughly season. That said, depending on the time of the year, weather, and other factors, when you cut the wood, it may take more or less time.
As a general rule of thumb, softwoods require around six months to season, while hardwoods tend to take a little longer (between 9 months and slightly over a year).
Here is a quick list of popular types of firewood and their seasoning age times.
Firewood with a 6-Month Seasoning Time
- Douglas Fir
Firewood with a 1-Year Seasoning Time
Firewood with Two or More Year Seasoning Time
- Other hardwoods cut during wet periods
How to Tell if Firewood Is Seasoned
As promised, in this section, we discuss several quick and easy methods for telling if your firewood is seasoned correctly or not. From color and smell to moisture level readings, here are several tips for how to tell if firewood is seasoned yet:
Bark begins to loosen and pull away from the wood as it dries out. In fact, by the time the firewood is fully seasoned, the majority of the wood will be barkless with no effort on your part. Keeping an eye on the amount of bark left on your firewood as it seasons is a good indicator of whether it is ready or not.
When firewood begins to darken and fade in color, it is a good indicator that seasoning is almost complete. Fresh cut wood transitions from a lively green color to various shades of gray during this process. When you start to notice that your whole stack of firewood is changing color, you will know that the seasoning time is coming to an end.
As firewood dries and seasons, it starts shrinking. The shrinking that occurs during the seasoning processing is visible via cracks that begin appearing in the wood, the more seasoned it becomes. This is another excellent indicator that your firewood is ready for use in your fireplace or stove. Greenwood and not yet seasoned firewood will not have many cracks.
Believe it or not, the smell of seasoned wood is another dead give away as to whether or not your wood is ready for optimal burning. The best way to get a good whiff of your firewood is to use a knife or hatchet to remove a small piece. If the freshly cut piece of wood has a strong smell, it is not yet done seasoning.
When you’ve cut into a piece of firewood, take a minute to look for indicators of dampness. If it is at all wet, it is not ready for burning.
The weight of a piece of firewood is also an excellent indicator of whether or not it is seasoned yet. Dry wood weighs less than wet wood. Half a cord of green hardwood weighs around 4,000 lbs at the time of cutting, whereas a half cord of seasoned hardwood averages around 2,500 lbs.
For those who put their faith in gadgets, a moisture meter is a perfect tool for checking how seasoned your firewood is. They are one of the most accurate methods for testing moisture levels in firewood. Most of these gadgets are hand-held devices with easily readable LCD screens that display the moisture percentage in the wood. Again, firewood with a moisture level of 20-percent or less is ideal.
Tips for Faster Firewood Seasoning
When it comes to seasoning firewood as fast as possible, there are a handful of tips that will help you get the job done most efficiently.
- Understand the type of wood you are dealing with and how long it takes to season.
- Know as much about your wood as possible, including where and when the wood was cut.
- Measure the moisture content with a moisture meter at the beginning of the seasoning process.
- Start seasoning your firewood at the most appropriate time of the year.
- Make sure the firewood is stacked efficiently with plenty of room to breathe.
- Adequately cover the top layer of your seasoning firewood, and avoid wrapping the sides.
- Expose the firewood to the elements as much as possible, especially wind and sun.
- Raise the bottom-most layer of wood from the ground to avoid moisture build-up and possible rot.
- Make sure that your wood gets some weathering; do not fully protect it from the rain and snow. Only the top and bottom layers need extra protection).
A Final Word About Seasoning Firewood
Seasoning firewood is a relatively simple and straightforward process. Seasoned firewood burns longer, hotter, sparks less, and smokes less. It does, however, require a great deal of patience as well as some general knowledge.
Hopefully, our article helps you learn how to season firewood on your own. Just remember, once your firewood reaches a level of 20-percent moisture content or less, it’s ready for use in your fireplace or stove.
If you are seasoning softwood, you can expect a quick half-a-year turn-around time. On the other hand, hardwood requires upwards of a year or more (sometimes nearly two years) before being fully seasoned and ready for burning. Likewise, you can expect a seasoning time of 9 months to over a year for mixed batches of firewood.
If you’re interested in creating your firewood from logs, as well as seasoning it, you may find our reviews of the best firewood processors in 2020 useful as well.
Do you have an excellent firewood seasoning tip or trick that you’d like to share with our audience? Wed love to hear all about it in the comments section below.
Good luck seasoning your firewood!